Israeli-Ethiopian leaders press conference.
(photo credit: ALONI MOR)
Ethiopian-Israelis will continue to take to the streets if a police officer filmed beating an IDF soldier last month is not promptly put on trial, a group of activists said at a press conference Sunday in Tel Aviv.
The demand was one of several laid out by activists, including that charges be dropped against all protesters arrested during rioting in Tel Aviv last Sunday night, and for steps to be taken to improve education, welfare and housing for the Ethiopian- Israeli community.
Activist Inbar Bugale was one of only two people to speak at the press conference, given in central Tel Aviv in front of a banner that read “No More Racism.” Former Yesh Atid MK Pnina Tamnu- Shata helped organize the meeting and was on hand to help run the press conference.
Bugale called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a hypocrite for his embrace of Damas Pakada, the IDF soldier who was filmed being beaten by an Israeli police officer, which sparked protests in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Bugale said Netanyahu’s gesture was an empty one meant to end the protests and silence activists.
“The prime minister showed hypocrisy by choosing to embrace the soldier Damas Pakada in order to shut us up and finish the protests, instead of speaking to us directly. We are asking him to step out of his ivory tower at the Prime Minister’s Office and tour our neighborhoods, those places that over the years the government has made sure would remain Ethiopian ghettos,” she said.
She added that Netanyahu’s promises to appoint a ministerial committee is not enough, and she recalled similar promises made three years ago after a protest by Ethiopian Israelis over housing discrimination.
“Decision makers abandoned Ethiopian Israelis as though they were foreign implants and not a basic part of the foundation of Israeli society. They have ignored the difficult reality that there is an entire young generation that feels it is not part of Israeli society,” she added.
She called for Police Ch.-Insp. Yohanan Danino to update members of the community on the findings of his probe of relations between police and the Ethiopian- Israeli community. In addition, she told organizers to cancel a solidarity with police rally planned for next week by families of police officers, saying that the point of the rally was “to incite things” and that the responsibility for what happens will be on those who held the rally and allowed it to take place.
The only other speaker Sunday was Avihu Azariya, the head of the council of Ethiopian High Priests, who called for recognition by the rabbinate of the leaders of the Ethiopian-Jewish community.
He said that failure to recognize them and the requirement that Ethiopian Jews undergo conversion has been a source of problems for the community for decades.
The protest in Tel Aviv last Sunday night deteriorated into the violence the likes of which have not been seen at a protest in the city. Police fired stun grenades and sent mounted officers charging into the crowd, while rioters threw bottles and rocks at police, vandalizing police vehicles and nearby stores.
Dozens were arrested during the rioting and at least 40 people were lightly wounded, more than half of them police.